Now that there are more hybrid cars and vans available on the market, we are seeing more TV adverts announcing 'mild hybrid', 'self-charging hybrid', 'plug-in hybrid electric' - but WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?!
Perhaps we can help explain in this blog...
First of all, let's tackle the word 'hybrid'. We know it traditionally as 'a thing made by combining two different elements'.
For cars, this means combining two different energy sources. So, combining Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars, like petrol or diesel, with fully electric cars. The mix of the two power sources gives a hybrid vehicle which generally has greater fuel economy, fewer emissions than a purely ICE car and, usually, cheaper government road tax.
OK, that makes sense, but let's now break it down into the different types of hybrid on the market.
A mild hybrid has a petrol or diesel engine with some electrical assistance. It uses a small size battery to assist the engine and is not capable of electric only driving. It doesn't need charging from a plug and gets its energy through regenerative braking. Some cars use this process not to help the engine to drive the car, but to power the electrical systems within the car (think radio, electric windows, heated seats).
It reduces the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of ICE cars. A small electric generator replaces the traditional starter motor and alternator (the device that keeps the 12-volt battery charged), plus a small lithium-ion battery.
Most mild hybrids run on a 48-volt electrical system – a higher voltage than the electrical systems of traditional combustion engines use. The 48V system powers components that would have previously been powered by the engine, enabling it to operate more efficiently.
The main advantage is that they assist the engine under hard acceleration and help make its stop-start system smoother in operation.
Such systems can also harvest energy when the brakes are applied, 'brake regeneration' - converting it into electricity that's fed to the lithium-ion battery to provide extra assistance when it's needed. On average, a car with mild hybrid technology is said to be up to 15% more efficient than its conventional 'ICE' counterpart.
A full hybrid car has a petrol or diesel engine with a separate electric motor and these can work together or independently to drive the car. The battery is usually small to medium sized and so pure electric driving is usually only at low speed, in urban environments for short distances. The battery size means they can be re-charged quickly through regenerative braking and even if completely low, the ICE engine can be used alone, so there's no real range anxiety.
A plug-in hybrid car uses a petrol or diesel engine with a separate electric motor and these can also work together or independently to drive the car. The plug-in hybrid electric vehicle or PHEV uses a large sized battery that can be charged up from a plug-in electrical source. It's the next step towards fully electric as the bigger battery gives a greater electric-only drive range than the full hybrid. It needs re-charging from a plug but shouldn't take more than a few hours. If the battery runs out of charge, the ICE engine can be used to drive.
Internal Combustion Engines - So, thinking back to ICE vehicles, they are powered by petrol or diesel engines only, they have no drive battery (just the starter battery), they have no electric-only range.
Electric Cars - only have an electric powertrain to move them, the battery size is very large, the electric-only range can be up to 300+ miles, they need charging from a plug and the charging time is significant (several hours on low voltage).
We hope this has helped explain the main differences between the types of hybrid vehicle on the market today.
There's nothing better than to see for yourself, so if you'd like to try a hybrid vehicle for yourself, then please book a test drive with one of our experts in branch. Find out more from the links below. You'll be an expert in no time too!